Pitt transfer excited for upcoming season
Trey Zeigler was riding a Greyhound bus bound for Detroit when his father phoned with good news.
“Hey, you're good to go,” were the first words Ernie Zeigler said, telling his son that his basketball eligibility had been awarded for the 2012-13 season, despite his transferring from Central Michigan to Pitt in April.
Heading home for Memorial Day weekend, Zeigler spoke with his father and then with Pitt coach Jamie Dixon.
“(Dixon) just told me that the waiver came,” Zeigler said. “He said, ‘It's time to get more focused and get ready for the season. We have the chance to have a great year.' ”
Zeigler, a 6-foot-5, 203-pound guard, transferred to Pitt in April after his father was fired from Central Michigan after six seasons as men's basketball coach.
Pitt associate athletic director Dan Bartholomae believed the NCAA would give Zeigler's eligibility special consideration because he opted to play for his father at Central Michigan after turning down other Division I offers. His case fell in line with the precedent set by other cases.
“It was a surprise that it happened this early,” Zeigler said. “We kind of knew I had a shot at it before I even committed.”
Dixon recruited Zeigler but knew the teen's opportunity to play for his father would be difficult to overcome.
“There are certain things you don't recruit against,” Dixon said. “One of them is a guy coaching his own son.”
Zeigler is no stranger to Pitt; Ernie Zeigler worked as a Panthers assistant from 2001-03. The younger Zeigler was 10 years old when he met Dixon.
“Without question, it's home,” Ernie Zeigler said, explaining how his son grew up watching the emergence of Pitt basketball. In both seasons the elder Zeigler served as an assistant, the Panthers made it to the Sweet 16.
“Back then if you would have asked me, I would have told you I was going to Pitt,” Trey Zeigler said. “Being able to play on this team now, it's amazing.”
In two seasons at Central Michigan, Zeigler averaged 16.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He was the first Chippewa to record his 1,000th career point as a sophomore.
Zeigler, a junior, will help fill a Pitt backcourt that lost leading scorer Ashton Gibbs.
“He can handle the ball very well,” Dixon said. “He passes it well, really gets to the lane, gets fouled and gets to the free throw line.”
With the question of his eligibility settled, Zeigler said he has high hopes for the upcoming season.
“This is a stage,” he said, “everybody wants to play on.”
Meredith Qualls is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5637.